Dying without a will in California can result a person’s estate being distributed contrary to their wishes. In the worst case scenario, the estate could end up with the State of California. If your loved one recently passed away without a will, the estate will be settled under the laws of intestate succession in California. Most likely, you will need help probating the estate.
Contact A People’s Choice for professional, low cost legal assistance. We can help you administer the estate of a decedent who died without a will without having to hire an expensive attorney. Read on to learn more about the laws of intestate succession in California.
What is Intestate Succession in California?
Intestate succession in California occurs when a person dies without a will. Under California intestate succession laws, the decedent’s heirs entitled to receive a portion of the estate depend on whether they are next of kin. For example, as next of kin, the decedent’s surviving spouse and children will inherit his/her separate property.
The following types of property do not pass through intestate succession:
1. The decedent’s property held in a living trust
2. Life insurance proceeds with named beneficiary
3. Retirement account funds including IRA and 401(k) with named beneficiary
4. Payable-on-death bank accounts
5. Property the decedent owned in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship
Heirs At Law Under California Intestate Succession Laws
An heir at law is a person who is legally entitled to receive property of another upon that person’s death. Who is considered a decedent’s “heir at law” is determined by California’s intestacy laws. Heirs will inherit the decedent’s property based on rules of descent and distribution. If the decedent is not married or in a registered domestic partnership at death, the following heirs will have first preference, in this order:
1. Children – The decedent’s estate will be divided equally among his/her children.
2. Parents – The decedent’s estate will be divided equally among his/her parents if he/she did not have any children or a surviving spouse.
3. Siblings – If the decedent is not survived by any children, spouse, or his/her parents, his/her siblings will receive an equal part of the estate.
4. Grandparents – If the decedent is not survived by any children, spouse, or siblings, his/her estate will pass to his/her grandparents.
If the decedent is married, his/her share of community property will pass to his/her surviving spouse. Under California’s intestate succession laws, if the decedent did not leave any surviving issue, parent, brother, sister, or issue of a deceased brother or sister, the spouse will inherit 100% of the decedent’s separate property. If the decedent had surviving children, the surviving spouse will only inherit a portion of the decedent’s separate property, with the remaining portion shared between the children. Refer to Probate Code 6401(c) for other scenarios. If the decedent is legally separated at the time of his/her death, his/her surviving spouse will not be entitled to his/her property.
If the decedent has no surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts or uncles, nieces or nephews, cousins, etc, the property will escheat to the State of California. This rarely occurs.
In addition, to inherit any property under California’s intestate succession laws, a person must outlive the decedent by 120 hours. Half-siblings all inherit their proportional share despite whether the decedent may have a different father or mother.
If your loved one passed away without a will, the laws of intestate succession in California will direct how the estate is distributed among the heirs of the decedent. Probating an estate without a will does not have to be expensive and can easily be accomplished without hiring an expensive lawyer. Contact A People’s Choice to learn more about how we can probate your loved one’s estate.
The sister of my deceased father passed away without a will and with two multifamily buildings as separate property. She has nobody except her husband and myself . Do I have the right to half ?
Hello, You would need to seek out an attorney to discuss that possibility. Thank you,
Both my husbands parents passed away many years ago with out a will. The house is still in there names. And we’ve been living and paying the property taxes for a few years. My husband is the only child. He is entitled to the property, correct? What should be the first step to this process?
It sounds like you need to file probate to distribute the assets to the legal heirs. We can definitely help get you through that process at a much lower cost than an attorney. Call us at 800-747-2780 and ask for Sandy in the probate dept.
A friend Bruce, recently passed away succeeded by his wife of 35 yrs & 1 living brother + 2 grandchildren
Bruce has 1 separate property in Sacramento CA
Bruce & Therese would travel& live back & forth from Sacramento to Los Angeles through out their marriage
Everything else is held in joint tenancy
Bruce signed a basic general will granting all his property to his wife before passing
Will has 3 signatures is dated also has video tape confirming designation while Bruce was alive
Will not notarized
How does Bruce,s wife go about transfer of separate property in Sacramento to herself?
Does she file CA DE221 with death certficate or is it more complicated?
Hello Juan, you can consult with a legal clinic or avvo.com if you would like assistance in completing the process on your own. If you would like our office to prepare the necessary documentation, which includes much more than just a petition, please call 800-747-2780 for more information and a price quote.
Community Spousal property can be transferred to a spouse through a spousal proceeding as well as separate property through a will. Give us a call for help with the paperwork 805-648-5540
My elderly father passed away in California in 2020 with no will or testament in place and less than $20,000 in savings in the bank and with no other assets or liabilities. He was cared for by my brother and 2 sisters. My mother passed away many years ago. What is the legal process and steps to close the estate and distribute the money in the bank equally to my 3 siblings and me? How long should the process take to complete? Who should administer or be appointed to close the estate?
Hello Michael, with that amount of funds, you should be able to proceed with documentation for a non-court process. Please call the office on 800-747-2780 and a member of staff can answer any questions and get you set up.
My mom’s mother (my grandmother) passed away in 2004 and my mom was the only living sibling, however they weren’t really speaking much as my mom was sexually abused in that same house her mom passed away inside. So i’m just wondering if my mom is out of luck with trying to claim the property that she was raised in now. I understand that it has been a long time since her mother passed away, however I really do believe that my mom wasn’t made aware of her mother passing away what she needed to claim administrator of estate as the only living sibling at the time. My mom is in really poor health and I think she was swindled out of her mothers estate in 2010.
Hello Jesse, if no probate has been completed to transfer the assets, we can assist with the paperwork for the beneficiaries to receive their distribution. Please call the office on 800-747-2780.
If there was no will and the total value of real estate property is less than $166,25o and no formal probate process is chosen as a result (meaning no attorneys are hired), are the debts still the responsibility of the estate or heirs? Is there a statute of limitation involved?
Hello Raul, creditors can put in a claim on a formal probate process, but if you need legal advice regarding a statute of limitations or when there is no full process being completed, I would consult with an attorney.
My wife’s mother recently passed away. Her Mom was widowed and has 4 living adult children and one deceased adult daughter. The Trust states that the deceased daughter had already been given assets (a home) while still alive and was married with two children of her own. The Trust did not include this daughter as a beneficiary in the Trust. Are her widowed husband and these two grandchildren considered heirs even though they are NOT listed as beneficiaries? My wife will be acting as ‘executor’ of the Trust and would appreciate clarification. Thank you
I would get clarification from an attorney. As an LDA we cannot give you legal advice.
If a man passes away, never married with no children does a stepmother count as his parent in probate. Over 25 years as his mother.
I would run that question by an attorney and see what they say.
If the decedent had no will, no spouse, no children, no descendants and no living parents/grandparents, but is survived by some siblings but not by all, are the children of the non-living siblings (nieces/nephews) considered heirs of the estate as well as the other living siblings? Or are the living siblings the only heirs?
Typically yes if they died after the decedent.
My uncle passed and had no will.. he was never married nor did he have any kids so based on California intestate laws, his living mother is the sole heir of his estate.. she is in declining health and the probate is likely going to take 2 years to complete.. my question is if the mother passed away before completion of probate but she has a living trust/will set up stating that what she would have inherited from probate be given to her designated heirs, will that hold up in probate or does probate fall back on splitting the estate amongst dependent’s siblings
It should not take two years to complete a probate. Our office typically completes probate cases within about 10 months. You mother could assign her interest to other beneficiaries before she dies. Give us a call at 800-747-2780 and we would be happy to speak with you about how we can get you through this process as easy as possible.
I have been contacted ( and my siblings) by a Inheritance investigator. They informed us that my Uncle has died and they believe that we are next of Kin for inheritance. I can’t find his obituary or anything about who has handled his funeral or his affairs since he pasted ??? By doing some back ground checking I have found that he has an estate of near, if not just over 1 million $. This co. that has solicited my siblings and me wants 9% of the total estate if distribution to us is made . Is this a reasonable fee for this/that of investigation or would we be better off hiring an attorney directly. My uncles property is in California and all of the surviving nephews Live in NJ. I was told that some one is trying to admin. the estate with out recognizing or notifying the severing next of Kin. ??
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
I cannot comment whether the fee is reasonable or not. You may want to talk to an attorney. If you need to file a California probate, however, our office can help once you have gotten whatever legal advice you need.
I have a couple of sisters who falsified some real estate documents, made my Mom sign paperwork without her being read back exactly what she was signing, Mom doesn’t know how to read. They made her sign her property away from her as a gift from Mom even though Mom didn’t know this at the time. Mom is still alive and wants to know if she can do anything regarding the paperwork she signed? This happened in 2013 Mom knows she was lied to when she signed and deeply regrettable, She’s 84yrs old and asking if she can do anything about this matter because she knows that she was robbed by them. What can she do? Thanks
I think Mom should immediately get in touch with an attorney regarding this matter.
If someone passed with no will, no spouse, no children, no surviving parents or siblings – do the nieces and nephews inherit or does it go back to the grandparents issue? There are no surviving grandparents or aunt and uncles either.
Check out Probate Code – PROBATE CODE, DIVISION 6. WILLS AND INTESTATE SUCCESSION [6100 – 6806]
How will the estate be divided with next of kin without a Will in California?
Typically if a decedent leaves no surviving relatives, or if she is survived by relatives so distant that state law prevents them from inheriting, her estate is conveyed to the state treasury by a process called escheat. Talk to an attorney for legal advice regarding this issue in your particular situation.
We have owned 50% of our property since our dad passed In 1997. His brother passed in 1976 with no will (he does have a wife and 2 children). The property was put under Tenants in common in the 60s. They dont want to deal with the property we have been paying the taxes since we inherited it. Can we sale the property or does it have to go through probate?
Based on how title was held, the decedent’s estate would probably have to go through some sort of probate before their interest can be transferred. There are different types of probates in California. Call us at 800-747-2780.
My mother has a life insurance policy for me(her daughter). She was the owner and I was the insured. My mother has passed away. Now I want to take ownership of the life insurance policy she had for me ( Change in Ownership) . I submitted the Death Certificate to the Life Insurance Company,, but now they are saying I need additional documentation. My mother didn’t have a Will, Eastate, ect. I have been paying the premiums on the policy for a couple of months now. Please assist
What does the life insurance company day you need?
My cousin just passed away with no will. He was never married, no kids or siblings or domestic partnership. He kept my name and my younger cousins contact info in his wallet for emergencys. I was called by LA County Sherrifs when they found him on a welfare check as he lived alone. I’m not sure how this is going work but I am the POC with the coroner’s office. I don’t believe there is any relatives except my cousins as next of kin. There will be property involved and most likely probate. what do I do next?
You can contact our office if you need to file probate. 800-747-2780.
My aunt died and there was no will for the property. She had no kids and both her parents are deceased. She had two siblings. One deceased, one alive. Does the property only go to the surviving sibling? Or to the surviving sibling and the children on the deceased sibling?
When a Intestate succession heir has died, their interest usually goes to their children.
My Exes Mom Died and the estate is in probate, Can he disclaim his inheritance and avoid paying back child support?
He Owes back Child support for over 14 yrs, has never made a payment, and I have a court order and audit from child support services proving that he owes.
I also have proof that he has in fact benefited from the estate after he signed the disclaimer
There Was NO WILL left by his mother, The only heirs were him and his sister…..My Daughter was never mentioned.
There is over 170k in liquid assets in the estate. And the estate is worth 750K
I would seek out legal advice from an attorney as soon as possible on this issue.
can the next of kin designate someone ie nephew niece to deal with the probate process or does it have to be the immediate Kin. My husbands uncle passed away and the children don’t want to deal with the probate process of his real and personal property.
Hi Reyna – We can certainly prepare the necessary documentation in the probate to have a nephew or niece act as and be appointed personal representative in the probate case. Give us a call at 800-747-2780 to get this started. We offer an easy online interview portal that will allow the representative to provide us with the required info without coming into our office.
My father died interstate as a resident of California 90 dyas ago. I am my fathers oldest son by his first marriage and live outside of California. My father had very little money as he was disabled and I’ve tried contacting my half-brother multiple times about the process of how he and his mother (my father’s present wife) are going to divide his personal belongings, but after multiple texts and phone calls, they do not reply and I’m being left in the dark on what’s going on. Is that legal and what can I personally do to find out?
Our role is to prepare probate documents. We cannot give you legal advice about what you can do in this situation. You may want to contact an attorney.
My mother passed away 2 years ago and i am the only child. She was not married. I am curently residing in her home and need to file to have her property transferred to me. There is a mortage till owed which Ive been paying. And some debt on her part. Im trying to save money to file the paper work but its been taking me a while. Will i have issues when i file cuz of the time line?
Hi Chris – we can certainly help you file probate to get the property transferred to you. I would definitely act on this as soon as possible. You can avoid attorney fees by hiring our office. The probate process takes about 8 months and we offer a low flat fee. Call us at 800-747-2780 to get started. My extension is 100.
My mother died and has a house and motorcycle in the name of both her and her boyfriend of only 1.5 years. I have proof that she is the only one who paid for both the bike and the house through her bank records. Does common tenancy law apply in this case? I also have proof that I loaned my mother the money for both the house and the bike. Does that have any bearing on the situation?
We are not attorneys, so I cannot comment on the “law.” Talk to an attorney if you need legal advice.
Is it true that when a person dies in Ca, who had a house with his spouse, but that spouse had died 6 years ago, because she hadn’t been dead for more than 15 years, and they didn’t have any children, the estate will be divided equally with next of kin on both sides? The wife had already passed 6 years ago and the husband was paying on the house and then he just passed this year. What other state does this?
Hi Julie – We cannot comment of the law or its interpretation but we can certainly help you with the probate paperwork. In the meantime, talk to an attorney if you need help understanding California’s probate laws.
Please finish the line up.
Who is next in line after deceased grandparents?
Elderly uncle (married)
Cousins – none in contact with me except one and we are not emotionally close. He’s just a business contact on property we all inherited in common.
I’m now a senior. I’m so tired of hearing FAMILY will help you. I’m an only kid. No “family” is not helping.
Had a trial run at a temporary medical emergency and lack of family or friends who could help put me living in Vehicle following natural disaster. I’m still not in housing which creates a medical problem.
Please help me warn others. You need a crisis plan.
If there is no spouse or domestic partner, no issue, no parent or issue of parent, no grandparent or issue of grandparent, but a predeceased spouse or domestic partner with issue surviving, the property would go to issue of a predeceased spouse or domestic partner,issue take equally if they are all the same degree of kinship to the predeceased spoue or domestic partner, but if of unequal degree, those of more remote degree take by right of representation. If decedent leaves no surviving spouse, domestic partner, issue, parents, grandparents, brothers or sisters or their issue, or issue of a predeceased spouse or domestic partner, ALL property goes to the decedent’s next of kin. If no next of kin, then all property goes to parents or issue of parents of predeceased spouse or domestic partner. Bottom line, we recently heard a sad story of a woman who had no family and had not made a will. All of her assets, house, etc. will ultimately go to the State of California because she failed to make a Plan. Yes, everyone needs a plan for their estate!